Sweet Child of Mine: Bad End
She wondered, not for the first time, how Johnny had reacted to finding the farmhouse empty all those years ago.
Had he been angry? Had he wept? Did he scour the sands looking for any clue as to where his wife and child had ran off to?
The townspeople wouldn't have been any help-she hadn't told them where she and Utah were going. Abilene Town, although it had been her home for all her life, would not have approved of a young, inexperienced lady leaving town with her child in tow.
It hadn't been all to get away from Johnny, she conceded. If he got into trouble less and was home more, he'd have been any woman's perfect man, if it weren't for his attitude. He liked working, at least, and he didn't drink or smoke much.
Johnny wasn't a bad man. He got into scrapes with the law, sure. But he never hit his wife or kid, and he made sure that they were taken care of. He had given up running with that outlaw gang for her.
She would never forget that.
Diana Maria Redeye hated the role she was given in Abilene Town. She hated being a little old farmwife. She hated waiting for Johnny to come home.
Abilene Town was killing her. She had to leave.
Johnny wouldn't know. He had just left, heading down the trail.
At the time, she had thought that anywhere would be better than Abilene. She had learned the hard way that the wastes were tougher than she thought. She did have her victories: hunting for animals and searching for supplies, finding good enough places to rest.
But there were failures too: long nights with nothing to eat, countless injuries, a jammed weapon.
Surviving in the wastelands was difficult. More difficult, Diana Maria thought, than Johnny made it look. Johnny made a lot of things look easy. He had fast hands, a smile that made people look past his eyes, if only for a second.
Eventually, she came to a realization: there was no way she would be able to provide for herself and Utah. Once she thought of this, it wasn't something that she could let go.
It was when they were bunkered down in a pre-war house that she decided she would leave him. It was more humane than letting them both starve slowly. It was more humane than putting him out of his misery.
She left a note, just as she had left Johnny a note. A note and a weathered ten-millimeter pistol.
Hopefully, he'd reunite with Johnny. Likely, he wouldn't live that long.
At the time, it hadn't felt right to leave Utah. But it felt like it was what she needed to do to survive. It was something that she thought about a lot-she had almost convinced herself that Johnny had somehow found Utah and they had become a family again.
As the years passed, a new power rose in Arizona. They were called the Legion, and they were led by a man named Caesar. The cruelty they committed became wide-known, but Diana Maria hadn't feared the Legion. She should have.
She knew that the Legion captured people for slavery, but she didn't think she would be one. She assumed that her training with the Railroad would help her evade capture.
It hadn't. They caught her while she slept and a slave collar was slapped around her neck.
That had been months ago. She's waiting in a cage now. A man in a fox head mocks her, but she knows better than to argue. No more does she imagine breaking free and escaping.
There's no escape in Cottonwood Cove.
The man in the fox head seems to grow bored of her lacking response. He orders a younger legionary to keep watch over her.
She sees his eyes. Red eyes, red eyes-she knows this man.
For the first time in years, Diana Maria looks her son in the eyes. He's got his father's eyes, and hope sparks in her heart. Hope of escape.
"Utah," She says quietly.
"Don't." He responds, sneering. "You're where you belong."
"No. You belong to the Legion now. What, did you think I would help you?" She can see the weathered pistol on his hip. "You left me to die. You abandoned me."
Close enough to reach for it. Could grab it, escape. Even as the thought blooms, she knows it's impossible. There's no escape. If she takes his gun, they'll set off her collar.
Even that sounds better than living out the rest of her life as a Legion slave.
She reaches for his gun. He turns away swiftly.
"Did you think I'd make it that easy? No, I want you to suffer. I want you to suffer and die serving the Legion."
With that, he leaves the immediate area. It's the last time Diana Maria ever sees her son.
The Legionary he's fighting is a tough one, Johnny thinks, feet scrabling for purchase on the sand.
He's got red eyes, and he knows that has to be something significant-he knows that has to mean something-but he's too busy fighting to work out what it means.
Pacing back, light on his feet, he grabs a handful of sand. Johnny's never been above fighting dirty. He flings the sand at his opponent's face, disorienting him.
Then he charges, meeting the Legionary's armor with a shoulder. He overpowers the other man, knocking him flat against the sand. Johnny raises a fist to the man's face, connecting solidly.
It's only after his opponent isn't breathing any more that Johnny stops. He looks over his opponent.
There had to be something about red eyes that he's forgetting. If he has forgotten something, he's not surprised.
Then it hits him like a tidal wave. Red eyes.
Just like him.
He falls to his knees, hoping he's wrong.
"Please." he whispers. "Get back up."
The man-the boy with red eyes-doesn't get back up. His son doesn't get back up.
After that, Johnny is never the same again. He was just as quick to kill, but he was careless with his life. He closed himself off from his companions. He was wandering throughout the Mojave.
He was haunted by the memories of what he had done. Eventually, a voice called to him, and he followed. Still, he knew that he could not begin again in the Sierra Madre-not with what he had done.